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In 2015, the 193 countries of the UN General Assembly collectively adopted the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda which outlines 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Covering a broad range of social and economic development issues including poverty, hunger, health, education, energy and environment, the SDGs are meant to enable inclusive growth in a world that leaves no one behind.

“Prior to the establishment of the SDGs, many companies have already made voluntary commitments to support sustainable development or to enhance environmental objectives, such as no-deforestation pledges or the implementation of sustainable forest management policies as in our sector,” said Lucita Jasmin, APRIL Director of Sustainability and External Affairs.

“Around the world, we are seeing businesses coming to the table equipped with the willingness, resources and business rationale to support real action and be an active part of sustainable development,” she said.

Yet, while such commitments are worthy and ambitious, they are “often self-contained within a sector or geographical area”, she said.

“What the SDGs have powerfully achieved is to provide a thread to enable all these strands of progress to come together as a coherent whole,” she said.

SDGs allow companies like APRIL to identify a specific goal as an initial focal point before exploring the interconnections with other goals, Lucita said.

“SDG 15 ‘Life on Land’ promotes the protection and restoration of forest areas and aligns closely with our conservation and sustainable forestry commitments, while several other goals are related as each goal has dependency and impact on the sixteen other goals.

“For example, forests store 46 per cent of terrestrial carbon which links SDG 15 and its focus on forest protection to SDG 13 on Climate Action. At the same time, deforestation is largely driven by socio-economic pressures so SDG 1 – poverty alleviation – is also an important connection,” she points out.

Partnerships

Of course, achieving the goals cannot be done by companies alone, Lucita said.

“It will require multi-layered partnerships and collaboration across government, business and civil society if we are to have any chance of success,” she said.

The challenge is to prioritise the transformational partnerships that can have lasting impact and ambitious scale and to do so with speed, Lucita added.

Many of APRIL’s ongoing programs and projects are carried out with valued partners and stakeholders, in alignment with SDG 17 on Partnerships for the Goals.

One main example is the Riau Ecosystem Restoration (RER) project, which was established by APRIL in 2013 to protect and restore ecologically vital peat forests in the Kampar Peninsula in Indonesia’s Riau province.

Covering approximately 150,000 hectares, RER is supported with USD100 million committed by APRIL for long-term restoration and conservation, contributing to SDGs 13 and 15.

In doing so, APRIL and RER partner with international conservation organisations Fauna & Flora International (FFI), The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and Indonesian non-government organisation BIDARA.

Community

Fostering a mutually beneficial relationship with the local community is key to the success of any business, and ensuring that local residents share in the company’s success was a priority for APRIL long before the launch of the SDGs.

But by providing clear, global targets, the SDGs make it easier to scale community projects since all stakeholders are operating within a common framework.

APRIL developed its Fire Free Village Programme (FFVP) – a community-led fire prevention initiative – in partnership with villages within its operational areas.

Under the programme, awareness is raised among communities about the economic and health impacts of fire, and villagers qualify for infrastructure grants in return for achieving zero-burn targets.

Soon after, APRIL became a founding partner of the Fire-Free Alliance (FFA), a multi-stakeholder group keen to resolve Indonesia’s persistent fire and haze problems that result from land burning. Through the FFA, APRIL counts Asian Agri, IDH, Musim Mas, P.M.Haze, Wilmar, Sime Darby and the IOI Group, as its partners.

APRIL continues its commitment to local residents through a range of Community Development programs, supporting SDG 1 on No Poverty and SDG 10 on Reduced Inequalities.

The programs, which aim to contribute to poverty alleviation in Indonesia’s rural areas and create economically independent communities, see the Community Development team routinely consulting communities on the type of assistance required in a particular area.

The company has also been working with farmers since 1999 via its Integrated Farming System (IFS) initiative, which enables farmers to achieve greater diversification, efficiencies and yields through ongoing technical and agricultural support.

In 2016, 248 farmers were trained to cultivate farmland under the program, while 44 farmer groups were supported with agricultural materials.

Other projects include the construction of infrastructure such as roads, education and health facilities, and places of worship.

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